Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sitting at my booth at the Anarchist Book Fair

It's a sleepy Sunday in the fair building in Golden Gate Park. People slowly wander past tables covered with paperback books, with titles like, "Radical Mycology," "The Invisible Handcuffs", "Bomb the Suburbs", "Building a Broadcast Station", "Slaves by Choice", "Censured in 2011", and "Sieze the Media." The vendors watch the people pass with tired, eager eyes, as if pleading, "Please buy a book so I can pay for this table and get something to eat." Everybody is looking for a bargain and the vendors are trying to find the sweet spot between making a bit of profit and making a sale. Even I have slashed two dollars off the cover price of all my books, hoping the bargain hunters will pay. It doesn't just happen at this fair, every book fair is a gamble for the publishers. Only the t-shirt tables are selling anything.

A young couple pushing a jogging stroller with a sleeping baby walk past. There's a nerdy guy in baggy t-shirts and big black glasses several feet away from me, staring at a tiny punk girl in torn tights and a leather mini-skirt. A man in a police cap cruises by on in-line skates. A little girl (maybe 10) in blue hair stops in front of my table, does two cart wheels, and then runs off after her parents. I see many people in their sixties and seventies wearing political t-shirts slowly meandering from table to table, stopping to study every pamphlit. I get the feeling they've been fighting the political action cause for years and I wonder what they think of how the cause has evolved. One elderly man frowns at a young kid in a pho-hawk who is letting himself be dragged around by his dog. It's obvious the dog is in charge. I wonder what this guy thinks of the groups of young squaters and activists sitting outside in the sun selling homemade t-shirts, stickers, chap-books, and cup cakes. Some of them look like they live on the street, while others are clean and idealistic, but broke. The cops are watching them all. 

Next to my table is a man named Shawn selling beautiful hand bound editions of vintage anarchist writings, which he himself designed and bound. A tall blond woman in an expensive pink dress is talking to him. On the other side of me is Black and Red Press from Detroit, run by Elaine, an older woman who reminds me of a retired teacher with her intelligent eyes and warm smile. Not what most people would imagine as an anarchist. Across the hall is AK Press where my friend Bill dashes around keeping books and employees organized. Far across the hall, I see a man in a red t- shirt with a befuddled look on his face, sitting all alone behind his table, as if wondering why no one is stopping to look at the books he wrote and self published. Do I look like that?

So many urgent voices here. All around me are political books, pamphlets, anthologies, posters, stickers, t- shirts, ideas, conversations and organizations fighting their cause with passion! It becomes a roar of noise. Who needs help more, homeless youth or battered women? What is more important, animal cruelty or labor rights? Which cause do you join? Which fight can you support? All of them? It could make you immobile after a while, unable to fight for anything because there is such an overwhelming need. 

Yesterday, Saturday, the crowd was bigger and there was more energy. I sold several copies of the Punk Anthology and two of my How-To Publish book. My daughter's grandfather met me at my table and we chatted about working together on his life story and my press publishing it. He asked me why I'm interested. 

"Because not many people dedicate 80 years to a cause."

He grinned, seeming to like that answer.

More friends made a special trip to the fair to see us, including James, one of the authors from the Punk Anthology. Another friend brought me Gluten Free muffins (bless you!). My friend and fellow publisher J.L Powers was here on Saturday as well, signing copies of her new book, This Thing Called the Future. But today, it's just Rick and I, both sleep deprived and tired of staring at people walking past our table. I'm glad we came, though. I've met some interesting people and made a few contacts. A book fair really isn't the greatest place to sell books. Instead it's a great place to talk to people and meet potential readers and spread the word about your publishing efforts, your books, your ideas on writing, and at the Anarchist Book Fair, your political views. 

We'll be back to the Anarchist Book Fair next year, but I think we'll only stay Saturday. On Sunday, we'll go for a leisurely walk in Golden Gate Park and have a wine and cheese picnic. Even us publishers need a day off now and then.


Shannon Drury said...

I would definitely be overwhelmed by the countless number of causes, all of them VERY VERY IMPORTANT had I been present, yet it still sounds like it was a lot of fun!

Rick said...

it was a good time. the after party hosted by Bill of A.K. press was a hoot. It was probably a good thing the next day the fair oped at 11AM. gave us time to sleep it off.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This was an interesting post. Thank you for "taking us along" to the fair with you.

Love you much,


J.L. Powers said...

Thanks for the shoutout. It was great to see you at the fair--it's been too long!